The last twelve hours have been a whirlwind of activity. Freeing captivity is an amazing feeling. Days of being sick to my stomach from absolute desperation about my situation came to an apex this afternoon. This morning I packed my things and snuck out the door of the flat while Sameh slept. My first time to step outside alone in the eleven days of being in Egypt. Only the second time to stand outside in the daylight. I knew the next few hours would be very stressful, but it was time to free myself from being held against my will in a rundown ghetto flat on the outskirts of Alexandria.
I walked out the front gate of the apartment building into such wonderful sunshine. I had such determination and also butterflies in my stomach, afraid of the moment that I would be caught and a confrontation would occur. But there was no turning back, I was dying inside. Someone who I thought was a good friend was leaching my money and ripping me off left and right. He is a professional abuser, and is very skilled at turning anything back on the victim and making them feel guilty and back down. Mind games and knowledge of his city, culture and language were his weapons. Daily he told stories of his past how he abused women and made money from ripping off foreigners. He lied daily, and basically told me everything that he was doing and what I could expect of Egyptians through his stories of his past. Enough had been revealed to let me know exactly how I could leave and what kind of help I could expect. But what did happen, was nothing I ever dreamt of. A mere eleven hours ago I purchased a ticket to flee the country and return home. Now I am considering staying.
Sometimes when there are too many coincidences, things start looking like destiny. And when destiny knocks at your door, you have to stand still, listen, watch and think. The world is definitely a small place. We are all connected to each other. Love and kindness are truly the most important things in this world. Today I was so blessed to have so many strangers come to my aide. My rescuer drove two hours in horrible traffic after a night of no sleep. To come rescue me, a complete stranger. This all because an old friend he met through AFS, who he hadn’t seen in years messaged him on Facebook, from another country. My exchange brother Mohammed happened to be that man who sent out the initial message. So I sat in that café waiting for Hassan, a complete stranger, to come help me.
For a brief second I was worried about trusting someone again, since a friend had abused me. But any friend of my brother’s, and a fellow AFS student was a hundred times better that returning to Sameh. So I sat there trying breathing exercises, drinking hot tea, singing along to Adele, watching Jumanji and briefly chatting with friends on Facebook. Anything to keep my mind off of the ensuing final encounter with Sameh. I sat in that café for nearly five hours, not wanting to return to the flat. I was a nervous wreck, absolutely soaked in stress sweat, with cold clammy palms and a knot in my stomach the size of a chicken that finally relaxed a few hours ago for the first time in over a week. I feel as if a huge boulder has been taken off of me and I can breathe and relax again.
The previous night I racked my brain and thought about how I could escape without endangering myself. I decided to lie to Sameh. Hoping that he would take pity on me and let me go. That night when I tried to go out to a café to use their Wifi, he refused to let me go, stating that it was dangerous. He told me that he was glad that a few nights ago I saw just how rude and dangerous Egyptians could be, and that I should not go out on my own. I shouted back to him that, why did I care? I was dying anyways and this was my final trip around the world to say my goodbyes. He paused and asked why I hadn’t told him earlier. I replied that I didn’t want to be treated differently and just wanted one last hoorah. With tears in my eyes, and a choked up voice, I told him that he was the first person I told. I told him that I received the news the night before I messaged him back in February to see if I could visit him. I was very convincing, and hated telling lies, but it was me or him. Sometimes you have to do things you are not proud of in order to survive. I told him that it was time for me to leave Egypt and continue my journey. He then promised that he would take me out to see the sights tomorrow morning and would do what he could for me to enjoy the rest of my stay. I went to bed early and awoke at 9am and packed all of my things while he was still sleeping. He was still sleeping and by 11:45 I decided to leave the flat and go to the Café down the block to use the internet. Unfortunately, in order to close the front door it has to be slammed shut. So within about five minutes of sitting in the café, Sameh found me, looking disheveled and still half asleep. He asked what I was doing, and I told him I was purchasing tickets to go to North Carolina to visit my brother Gabe and his family. He slammed shut my laptop and told me to go back to the apartment with him. I reopened it and continued searching, he tried to close it again. He said he wanted to talk to me, but not in public, and wanted me to come back with him. I told him I would not return to the flat with him and that he could talk to me here. He then started to try and pull me out of my chair by my arm, and I told him very loudly not to let go of me. He finally sat down and ordered a tea, I closed my laptop and gave him my full attention. He proceeded to tell me the following story:
There was a man who was diagnosed with severe heart problems and was scheduled to have a quadruple bypass, but most likely would die. The day before surgery he went to his local café next to a butcher shop. He witnessed a poor woman try to purchase some scraps for her family, but did not have enough money. The butcher refused to give her the meat on good faith. The sick man saw this and decided to pay for her meat. Not only for the day, but for rest of the year. He gave the butcher money to cover the family’s needs and went on with his day. The next day when he went into surgery, the doctors were shocked to discover that he didn’t need surgery after all and was miraculously healed. The moral being: that miracles do happen when you empty your pockets for others in need.
I had to laugh at this, being that I continuously give to others, never knowing when I might get my next paycheck or a job. While Sameh on the other hand admitted many times that he never gave money to beggars, didn’t volunteer, or really help humanity in any way. I am a full believer in karma and knew where he was going with this. He was trying to convince me to give him even more money in hopes of getting healed. I told him, sorry but I needed to leave. So I opened up my computer again and he tried to pull me up out of my seat again. This time I yelled at him to keep his hands off of me and looked to the waiter, and got his attention. Sameh seeing that I finally grew some balls told me that I had to stay another two weeks, and that he would show me the sites and that I would have fun. I replied that it was done, and he could not force me to have fun! One last try to get me to leave, and I told him I didn’t want to get the police or Embassy involved but would if needed. With that he went to the waiter, paid the bill, spoke a few minutes to him and left.
I sat there for a few minutes and asked for another tea from the waiter. He asked if I was okay, seeing the obvious distress upon my face. I told him No, I needed help and that the man just here was a bad man. He asked “your husband?” and I replied sharply that he was not my husband. With that, the waiter looked very concerned. I told him how he was taking money from me, and keeping me in the flat and that I just wanted to go back to America. He apologized and said that it happens often in Egypt, that I can’t trust people. After a bit I purchased tickets to North Carolina for the next day and decided to contact a few friends in Europe and Saudi who I was hoping to visit while on that side of the world. After telling my exchange brother Mohammed that I wouldn’t make it to visit him, I told him how horrible it was for me in Alexandria. Within minutes he sent out an S.O.S. message to a couple AFS volunteers in Alex. One of his friends answered his message and said he would come help me. I asked the waiter if I could use his phone and to please give directions to the man who was coming to pick me up. Since I still had no idea where in Alexandria I was.
The next four hours I sat in the café, sweating up a storm and trying to pass the time until my rescuer, Hassan arrived. Mohammed kept checking in with me and Sameh came back to the café after a couple hours. Sameh walked in and asked what I was doing. I told him that I purchased tickets to leave and was waiting for someone to pick me up. He said that I still owed him about a hundred dollars, and I replied that I would give it to him when I get my stuff. It was worth it just for this nightmare to be over, and to get all my belongings back. About an hour later, an old Land Rover pulled up and parked outside the shop and out stepped a young man with a buzz cut and goatee wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt. He briefly spoke to the waiter, and approached me. He introduced himself and sat down with me. We had coffee as he asked me to explain my situation and what steps that we would take next.
Mohammed and Hassan did not want me to walk back inside that apartment, and we had no idea if Sameh was alone or had called anyone over. Hassan said that I should not pay Sameh any additional money because he had taken so much already. All I knew was that if we didn’t try to get my belongings, he would get close to $2,000 worth of clothes, shoes and jewelry plus a hundred dollar bill I stashed. So, I was willing to give him the hundred in exchange for everything else. The problem was how to approach this. It could potentially be a dangerous situation. Hassan was prepared to go to the police station to ask for help, but it would cost about 200 pounds for each officer to come help back him up. We moved to the front of the café and asked a few of the locals where the nearest police station was, and I tried to explain where our apartment was. Eventually there was about ten men crowded around us, asking questions of our situation and many said that they would help. Hassan asked what they wanted in exchange (since usually everybody wants something here) for their help. They said nothing, but felt honor bound to help me after hearing about my experience. Hassan wanted to keep me safe and out of harm’s way, but still needed help finding the apartment, so I agreed to ride in the car with him and two men who volunteered. I directed him to the apartment and they disappeared inside. I sat in the hot car, with the doors locked, prying my neck every couple minutes to try and see something. After about fifteen minutes the three guys came down the stairs with my bags and put them in the car. I checked and luckily had all my belongings, minus my towel and sponge that were on the laundry line.
Sameh came down to the car with such a look of hate and was still pleading with the guys. He said to me “Really? This is how it ends? You still owe me money.” I told him I owed him nothing and not another word. The men then got in the car and we returned to the Café, where they exchanged numbers and names and then Hassan and I were off to his mother’s apartment. I texted Mohammed to let him know that we were safe and on the way. During the two hour drive I asked Hassan what went down in the apartment and what Sameh said. He said that the guys basically pounded down the door, and busted in there once Sameh opened it and made him sit down on the couch. Sameh took the defensive immediately and told them that I was messed up in the brain, not all there. They weren’t buying that, and ultimately he didn’t know how much they knew or who they were. He then said, I was just throwing a fit and wanted to leave because I wanted to have sex with him but he kept refusing. Then, finally he said, but she is dying, and I just found out. They asked him about the rent for the flat, and he said it was his sister’s place, and swore he wasn’t ripping me off. They then replied that his sister was ripping him off if that was the case, because these apartments were only worth $50 a month and he had taken $300 already, which just covered two weeks according to Sameh.
Hassan and I arrived to his mother’s flat with a nice hot meal waiting for us. After three days of eating only bread and cheese, and nothing but tea today, I devoured the delicious food. Upon entering the flat, Hassan’s girlfriend had called and asked him if he just rescued a woman. It ends up that his girlfriend works in New York and her co-worker is my mom’s friend. My mom had called him and filled him in on the situation, while Hassan’s girlfriend heard all about it. So it was quite a surprise that she knew all about the situation before he even had a chance to tell her about it. The world is truly a small place.